Gave proof through the night

The Oregon Historical Society let us know today that the Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative quilt, which was ripped from the society's museum and damaged during the riot of October 11, is being restored nicely.

The've cleaned the front of the quilt, which was recovered a short distance away from the facility, but the backing is in such bad shape that it is being replaced.

Last week, OHS sent the quilt to the Textile Conservation Workshop (TCW), a non-profit organization focused on the preservation of textiles. Located in South Salem, New York, TCW is a highly respected leader in textile conservation with a focus on quilts. The founder and director, Patsy Orlofsky, is also the author of Quilts in America, which provides history and technical information about quilting.

“I am confident that Patsy and her team will do the very best to address the conservation issues with the Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt,” said OHS Deputy Museum Director Nicole Yasuhara. “Speaking to Patsy, I have been impressed with her knowledge, realistic approach, and thoughtful recommendations. We will continue to communicate throughout the process, and hope to have the quilt back in our care in a few months.”

After consulting with Dr. Sylvia Gates Carlisle, the last living quilter from the original group, OHS has decided to attempt to restore the front of the quilt as much as possible, but will remove and replace the quilt backing, which is severely stained. The original backing will remain in the OHS collection as its own museum object, with the history of the vandalism captured and added to its story.

Carlisle was interviewed by a local TV station just after the trashing of the museum occurred. She put it in perspective then.

"If someone wants to criticize the museum's past? There's plenty of room for that," Carlisle said. "There are some other institutions that aren't trying, and that's another story. But I do give OHS credit for trying to fix the past to the ability they can now."

She said whether or not taking the quilt was an accident; it has no impact on the history the quilt reflects.

"Those women made significant contributions without the quilt. The quilt memorializes others who made significant contributions, and that won't change," Carlisle said. "Their legacy lives through, with, or without the quilt."

Still, "with" is better.